LESLIE MCBRIDE WILE
Siamo in Italia! It means We are in Italy!, and people here often say this to us when they cannot explain some bureaucratic tangle or incomprehensible administrative regulation. With a characteristic gesture that is half-shrug, half-surrender, they let us know there is nothing more they can do. Because. Siamo in Italia! is more than a statement of simple fact. It is an expression of helplessness or futility in the face of certain frustrations that may arise when dealing with Italian officialdom. As with most things in life there is another side to this catchphrase, as I was reminded last evening.
Wednesday night I joined J and D for the annual community band concert and fireworks in Piazza Maggiore. I walked up and found them at a table at Antico Borgo, with S and G. On my way, in via Vico, I passed two old ladies, walking heads together and chatting away; they were gossiping about someone, probably another girlfriend. A young man came walking quickly up the street and I heard him greet them politely. One of them said, Oh, you’re one of the twins! and they all laughed a bit and I went on, up the medieval street, smiling.
The band was still tuning up (concert scheduled for 8:30; I arrived at 9:00) but the chairs for the audience were nearly full and small groups stood around under the portici or sat on the benches in the piazza or strolled up toward the Belvedere. Diners sat at tables outside the pizzeria. Everyone was talking to someone else and children skipped and ran, weaving through clusters of grownups, or walked hand in hand with a parent to the gelato window.
S brought a chair and I settled in, joined the conversation, watched the night sky deepen between La Missione and the old municipio. A microphone squealed and the assessore for tourism said a few words. M said a few words, in his capacity as president of L’ Associazione della Funicolare. The band leader said a few words, took his place and raised his baton, and the music began. Throughout the concert the crowds thickened; Piazza was packed with families, couples, groups of teenagers. S brought a tray of baked peaches stuffed with amaretti and cocoa; G gave the recipe while we ate.
Around 10:30 the band played a final, rousing number and the first rocket sailed into the night. The display was spectacular–lots of florals and feathery sprays of light punctuated with big bangs, circles and flares of bright green, red, purple. S teased me a bit, saying Oooh and Ahhh and Wow, the way Americans do when watching fireworks, and we all laughed together. The climax was a glorious, nonstop eruption of sound and color. G stopped taking video on her phone and covered her ears. The lights came up in the portici and the crowd began drifting toward the funicolare, down via Vico, toward the parcheggi below Belvedere. The band struck up again to see us all home. We said our goodnights and strolled along the piazza, dancing a bit to the music–even D–and on to Piazza d’Armi. I turned down the hill toward home.
Mondovì is a time warp, a parallel cultural universe kinder and slower and more beautiful than much of the rest of the 21st century world. I feel lucky to live here, and I will try to remember that the next time I get frustrated with bureaucracy or stymied by over-regulation. Siamo in Italia!